Monday, March 10, 2014
By BETTY ADAMS Kennebec Journal
BANGOR — A jury on Tuesday convicted former Chelsea Selectwoman Carole Swan of taking kickbacks from Frank Monroe, who held the town's sand and plow contracts.
Betty Adams / Kennebec Journal
The verdict came at the end of a six-day trial and 33 months after Monroe went to Kennebec County Sheriff's Office deputies complaining that Swan was demanding $10,000 from him.
Monroe's claim triggered official investigations into Swan's other activities with the town as well as reviews of her personal finances.
It resulted in her being charged with three counts of extortion under color of official right in violation of the federal Hobbs Act, and a trial on those charges began Sept. 10 in U.S. District Court.
The jury was out for almost 5½ hours Tuesday.
A separate jury in the same courtroom convicted her July 26 of falsifying five years' worth of income tax returns by failing to declare $650,000 in income while defrauding the federal workers' compensation program in 2008 and 2010.
However, that jury cleared her of two additional charges of federal workers' compensation fraud and of fraud on a federal program that paid most of the cost of the 2007 Windsor Road culvert replacement project done by her husband, Marshall Swan.
He faces an upcoming trial of his own, scheduled to begin Sept. 30 in U.S. District Court in Bangor, on charges of falsifying income-tax returns and aiding and abetting federal program fraud related to the culvert project.
Carole Swan testified she was conducting her own sting to prove that Monroe was shortchanging the town of sand he was contracted to deliver.
She said she thought she had to get more than $10,000 from him to bring her suspicions to authorities.
In his closing argument Tuesday, however, the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark, argued that Swan "wasn't investigating Frank Monroe; she was extorting money from him."
Clark interspersed his argument with clips from recorded phone calls between Monroe and Swan and from her 90-minute interview with Kennebec County Sheriff's Office deputies in which Swan didn't mention any investigation.
Swan's attorney, Leonard Sharon, said Swan's "intent was not to extort but to investigate."
He said she confessed to deputies in the video because she felt intimidated by them, reminding jurors that Swan had testified about abuse she says she suffered at the hands of her husband.
Carole Swan, 55, has said Marshall Swan abused her over the 29 years of their marriage, dragging her by the hair, punching her and holding her head in the toilet, among other things.
She testified she left him in June after their younger son graduated from high school but has not filed for divorce.
Earlier in the day, Clark, the prosecutor, questioned Roberta Jean Rood, Marshall Swan's sister, who attested to Carole Swan's poor character.
"I sincerely cannot believe anything that comes out of her mouth," Rood said of her sister-in-law. "She is a chronic pathological liar."
Carole Swan, from the defense table, shook her head as Rood spoke.
Monroe, the Whitefield contractor, testified earlier that he had paid Swan $3,000 and $7,000 in separate installments in 2010 in return for her renewing his contracts without going out to bid.
He said he understood that giving her money was wrong, but he thought it would ease the number of her complaints about his work.
However, he said he balked when she told him to inflate his bill to the town for delivery of winter sand and kick back $10,000 to her.
At the deputies' direction, Monroe recorded phone calls between himself about the final exchange, which took place Feb. 3, 2011, on a snowy street in Augusta.
There, Monroe leaned out of his sand-truck door to hand over to Swan, who was driving a white pickup, a sting package of $450 buy money arranged to mimic $10,000. Deputies caught the exchange on camera and then followed Swan to a parking lot blocks away.
They confronted her, got the cash back and interviewed her at the sheriff's office, less than a minute away.
Several defense witnesses testified that Swan had shared with them her plan to investigate Monroe. David Libby, of Pittston, said Swan showed him an envelope around New Year's Day 2011 that she said contained $10,000 in money she had gotten from Monroe.
Flavia Kelley, a former Chelsea town clerk, said she asked Swan at a community Thanksgiving dinner in 2010 whether Swan intended to run for office again.
"She said the only way she would run was if she didn't get all the goods on Frankie Monroe to nail him," Kelley said.
Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at: